iNakba as New Media
The analysis of iNakba demonstrates how new media can be used as tools in the hands of marginalized groups that are trying to make their own version of a historical narrative more prominent and better known. The analysis of iNakba’s four features illustrates how new media redefine the meaning of memory mediatization and advance the processes of capturing, preserving, and displaying information, images, and artifacts concerning the past, creating the possibility for new actors to suggest different narratives to the wider society in order to achieve sociopolitical goals in the present (Hoskins, 2001, 2011; Huyssen, 2000; Pentzold, 2009; Pogacar, 2009; Reading, 2009, 2011; Van-House & Churchill, 2008). In the case of Palestinians living in Israel, these new opportunities are crucial as their group’s memory is disciplined, controlled, and rejected by official and unofficial state institutions and mechanisms.
In iNakba’s case, new media’s mobility, the access it provides to virtually unlimited amounts of data, and the opportunity it affords to express ideas in a multimediated way are used to extract stories and information that are not available through other sources of information. The amalgamation of all of new media’s features enables iNakba to tell stories of villages that no longer exist in reality; thus, new media carry the potential to create a mediated alternative reality that is not considered legitimate in the Israeli political environment. Indeed, a group’s memory and the ability to preserve it, maintain it, endow it, and construct it in a never- ending process is crucial to the group’s well-being and sense of uniqueness and peculiarity (Assmann & Czaplicka, 1995; MacIntyre, 1984). As such, iNakba, as a new memory tool, is actually an instrument for Palestinians living in the occupied Palestinian territories, Israel, and abroad to preserve and maintain their group’s identity. Because contemporary Palestinian identity is a contested issue, mainly in the Israeli political environment, iNakba is a powerful mechanism at the hands of those who seek justice in the Israeli-Palestinian context.
However, we need to pay attention to the fact that not all the defining characteristics of new media play the same role in the case of iNakba. Indeed, the app’s interactivity is very limited. While users can “follow” villages, they have no way of interacting with other followers. This limitation may have a number of consequences. First, it protects users of the app and maintains their privacy and some anonymity, which may be called for owing to the fact that promoting the Nakba narrative in Israeli society is frowned upon. Second, this limited interactivity suggests that the role of the app as a promoter of transactional communications among its users is greater than its role as an enabler of relational communications among users because they cannot connect with each other except in the process of being exposed to the same information. Hence, while the app is information rich, its communicative presence is poor.
In addition, while the app creates a new source of information, thereby contributing to the information richness regarding the Nakba, the app’s developers maintain strict control over the information available on the app since they prevent users from contributing personal textual content and videos and since they control users’ ability to upload photos. This can be explained by the political environment in Israel and the struggle between the opposing narratives of the war of 1948. Full interactivity might enable users to alter information available on the app and to enter content that would contradict the narrative made available by iNakba. As such, new media may be of great help to members of marginalized groups; however, it can also be used, at the same time, by activists from the dominant group in their attempts to delegitimize and marginalize the oppressed -Palestinians living in Israel in the iNakba case.
The iNakba app demonstrates how marginalized groups are able to capitalize on new media’s different features as members of those groups participate in their political and cultural struggles. At the same time, when carrying out new information and communication policies that aim to better serve the needs of the marginalized and the oppressed, we should keep in mind that different features of new media could introduce unexpected risks for the groups using them as well. We also need to acknowledge that developing an app having the sophistication of iNakba requires technical capabilities and capital resources not commonly available to the marginalized and oppressed. Thus, justice-based information and communication policies should seek to maintain, in the hands of members of marginalized groups, better control over the opportunities and risks that new media’s features may pose.